Technology is constantly changing, and so are the apps that are popular with young people. Local police say it’s important for parents to keep tabs on these — with online predators on the rise.
“Any app that has an audience whereby young people — teenagers or young adults — are attracted to that app, that’s like a playing field for the predator,” said Lt. Michael Johnson, a spokesman for Huntsville police. “The predator is going to gravitate toward that app.”
Snapchat and Grindr are two apps Lt. Johnson says predators have used to reach out to kids here locally.
“It really goes with the ebb and flow of trends,” said Johnson. “It’s whatever is trending.”
Skout, Tiktok, and Kik are other apps police say parents should be aware of. Most of these involve teens chatting with others or sharing videos and photos.
“The first thing parents should definitely do is know what apps are on his or her child’s phone,” said Johnson. “Second, have the child actually open the app and show them what its used for.”
Johnson says it’s important to check every app because some apps may be hiding other apps, and you won’t know unless it’s clicked on. An example of this Johnson sites is a fake calculator app. It looks like a calculator, but it’s hiding other apps inside.
Another thing Johnson says parents should track is their child’s data usage.
“Sometimes a parent can use these parent controls through their cell phone service provider, and when they see spikes in data usage from their provider — whether it’s over the overnight hours or the weekends– that might be a time you want to sit down and check out their phone as well,” he said.
Here are some of the apps to be aware of:
- MeetMe: A dating social media app that connects people based on location. Users are encouraged to meet in person.
- WhatsApp: A messaging app that allows texts, video calls, photo sharing and voicemails with users worldwide.
- Bumble: Similar to Tinder, but requires women to make the first contact. Law enforcement says kids and teens can create fake accounts and falsify their age.
- Live.Me: A live-streaming app that uses geolocation to share videos. The sheriff’s office said users can earn “coins” to “pay” minors for photos.
- Ask.FM: The sheriff’s office said this app lets users ask anonymous questions and is known for cyberbullying.
- Grindr: A dating app geared toward the LGBTQ community based on user location.
- TikTok: A new app popular with kids lets users create and share short videos. Law enforcement said the app has “very limited privacy controls” and users can be exposed to cyberbullying and explicit content.
- Snapchat: One of the most popular social media apps in the world, Snapchat lets users take and share photos and videos. The app also lets people see your location.
- Holla: This self-proclaimed “addicting” video chat app lets users meet people in seconds. Law enforcement said users have seen racial slurs and explicit content.
- Calculator+: Police say this is one of several apps that are used to hide photos, videos, files and browser history.
- Skout: A location-based dating app that is supposed to prohibit people under 17 from sharing private photos. However, police say kids can easily create an account with a different age.
- Badoo: A dating and social media app where users can chat and share photos and videos based on location. Police say the app is supposed to be for adults only, but they’ve seen teens create accounts.
- Kik: Police say kids can bypass traditional text messaging features using this app. Kik “gives users unlimited access to anyone, anywhere, anytime,” the sheriff’s office said.
- Whisper: An anonymous social network that lets users share secrets with strangers. Police say it also shows users’ location so people can meet up.
- Hot or Not: The app lets users rate profiles, check out people in their area and chat with strangers. Police say the goal of the app is to hook up.
Back in May, Apple and Google removed three dating apps from their stores after reports of the apps allowing children as young as 12 to access them. The Federal Trade Commission said apps Meet24, FastMeet and Meet4U appeared to violate the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the FTC Act.
The apps are operated by Wildec LLC, a Ukranian company, according to the FTC. They collect a user’s birthdate, email address, photos and real-time location data. The FTC claims the apps failed to block users under the age of 13 from using the apps or from being contacted by other users.
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